Friday, November 30, 2012

Japanese and Korean Bishops' Meeting

Korean and Japanese bishops met together November 13-15, in Korea, to discuss nuclear power plants and the problems they pose for our society. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan there is a sensitivity on what position to take on nuclear energy. Where should the bishops stand regarding the movement to abolish nuclear power plants was the topic discussed for three days.

They listened to talks on the likely problems that would develop and the direction needed for the future; they visited a nuclear power plant and offered Mass commemorating the meeting. At which time the bishop celebrant said, "God gave us this earth as a place to live on and to take care of,  which requires that we live smaller, simpler, plainer lives. With the abolition of nuclear power, our lives on the earth will be safer, and we can enjoy peace. Is that not  the direction in which the Church has to go?" Furthermore, he stressed the importance of cutting back on the use of our natural resources, which requires that we simplify our lifestyles.  The three days ended with small group discussions and a plenary session.

Both Catholic papers devoted space to the meetings of the Japanese and Korean bishops' conferences commenting on the  discussions  to develop renewable  energy from wind and sun, water and other natural sources. By renewable energy is meant energy that comes from natural resources that  can be easily replenished. One participant said the issue is not a political one but one about life.

On the visit to the nuclear plant they were told  by the representative of the plant that the energy produced, relatively speaking, is cheaper to produce than that from fossil fuels, and that Korea has fewer and less severe earthquakes  so the plants can be built with relative safety. Because there is just so much that can be done with renewable energy in Korea, nuclear energy can be produced safely and is economical was the representative's response.

The president of the Korean Bishops Conference was quoted as saying in the article in the Peace Weekly, "We can't see radioactivity, but it is harmful to life. The Church should make known to the citizens the necessary information, so they can make the right decision on the use of nuclear energy." 

Whether or not to use nuclear energy is obviously a very sensitive issue. It is known that it doesn't take an accident for a nuclear power plant to release radioactivity into the air, water and soil. All that is necessary is the everyday routine operation. Germany has made the decision to do away with nuclear plants and there will be other countries doing the same. What will Korea do? The position of the Church on this issue will be watched closely by many.  

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